How to Re-Cover Chairs!

I will go ahead and apologize now for my video taping and amateur instructions. I am not a professional, just a mom who threw it all together and made it work. 🙂

Do you have chairs in your house that you really don’ t like? Every time I sat down or looked at our kitchen table, I really did not like our chairs. I have been looking for a new set of chairs for our table, but never could find what I wanted. Finally my worst fears happened. Our Thing 2 decided it would be awesome to tear the back off of one of the chairs. I knew it was a matter of time. These chairs are 30+ years old. They needed to be re-covered like 20 years ago. I wanted to, but I was too chicken to. Once Thing 2 destroyed one, I knew I couldn’t mess it up any more so The Man and I decided it was time to take the plunge into the unknown and go for it. Originally we had concocted this very grand plan to add padding and backings… as we started our plan evolved. I will show you what I had to work with and we did with what we had. We did cut corners where we could to save money and time.

This is what I started with.

Very old school, right? I remember hiding under these chairs as a child. They were in my grandmother’s dining room. In case you can’t tell, that is a brown velvet seat cushion. This was the best chair we had out of the six. The rest were horribly covered in stains. So much so that I was embarrassed to seat anyone at them when they came over.

The first thing I did was go fabric shopping. I looked for fabric for about 2 weeks before I purchased. I am picky when it comes to fabric. Knowing that things are going to get spilled on these chairs, I wanted something that could hold up to that can of wear. I found what I was looking for at Joanne’s! It was an outdoor fabric that happened to be on sale for 60% off that weekend! The outdoor fabric is perfect for a kitchen chair when you have Things!

I went with the chocolate mainly because I needed it to be dark to hide any stains. Also, I wanted it to match our colors. My kitchen colors have always been yellow or green. Except that one time I really wanted a navy blue and I made the man repaint 2 weeks later. So no matter what, I know that these chairs will match! My fabric was $7.99/yard on sale. I purchased 6 yards of fabric so my total was $50.00 plus I had a 25% off of your total purchase coupon.

The next picture is one of the old, and one of the chair that Thing 2 ripped the back off of. These chairs had some sort of wood piping that was glued down inside of a grove that was holding the straw- like backing onto the chair. After we tried to strip this one chair, we realized that we were going to run into problems with our original plan. The original plan was screw in a piece of plywood in the middle to create a real backing and staple foam to that and cover just the back part with fabric. After we stripped the back, I realized there was no way to hide our staples, screws or folds in fabric. After a few minutes, I suggested that I just make a slip cover to cover the entire back of the chair. This, in my mind, was a way better plan because I could wash the slip covers and we could take back the foam and plywood (both totaling $60). At this point, our total cost was sitting at $110. Not bad at all, but I am frugal. I need money to feed my chocolate and mocha coconut frappaciano addition habit from Starbucks. Lucky for me, The Man loved my idea. So, we just decided to ignore this one chair that we had started until we could think through a solution for a new back ing for it. So let’s move on to the bottoms of the chairs.

When you flip your chair over, you will see that the bottoms are screwed into the chair itself. Simply unscrew the seat from the chair. Number both the bottom of the chair and the seat of the chair. You can not count on the fact that the seat portion of the chair will be interchangeable with the other chairs. This is how we started our project, by doing the seats first.

We made the decision not to strip the old fabric off of the chairs and give them a new pad. The reason being is whoever made our chairs used wood glue in addition to staples to tack the fabric to the underside of the seat. After seeing this, we just stapled the new fabric on top of the old fabric. Doing this will save you money on padding (about $10/yard) and time, but if we have to do this again, I am adding padding. If your chairs aren’t as old as ours, it may not need new padding. Ours really could have used the new padding for the seat portion.

Unfold your fabric, and lay your seat cushion on top of the fabric (underside facing up). We measure around this and cut our first piece and used it as a template for the rest of the chairs. Make sure you have enough fabric on all sides to staple it down.

When you have your fabric cut out, start with stapling the sides down. I am not a professional at this, but I found that if I started with the sides, I could the get the front corners nice and rounded. It does take two of you to do this. One will pull the fabric tight on each side while the other staples it to the seat itself.

When you get to the top and bottom (or front and back) of your seat start from the middle and work your way in. I would pull the middle tight, he would staple and then I would work on one corner at a time, stretching and twisting it so that you didn’t see a lot of folds from the outside of the fabric. As I got a corner where I wanted it, he would staple it down for me. I wish I had pictures to show you what I am trying to describe but it took both of us to do it. Keep going until you get all of your corners stapled down.

There is a video for this portion of the tutorial. If this is too confusing for you to read, skip to the video. Forgive my shabby video skills and lack of enthusiasm throughout the video: Thing 3 had an early bed time and I didn’t want him to hear me. 🙂 The slip cover was very easy to make. It’s like making a pillow case. I threw the fabric over the chair (so that I wouldn’t have to sew the top, just the sides) and measured how long I wanted the fabric to be. Make sure to give allowances for a hem. Cut your fabric. I started with the bottoms of the fabric. I would iron down the fabric folds to create a hem. Then pin the fabric down before I sewed. You may be so good that you don’t need to add pins. Hem it at the very edge of your fold and back stick the ends so your hem doesn’t come loose.

Don’t do the other side just yet. Take your fabric, throw it over the back and put the hemmed side to the front. Pull the back down and pin the back piece where the front ends. I hope it makes sense. You are marking the absolute highest your hem can be on the back by measuring it to your finished front. The reason I did not just measure is because I have made enough mistakes in sewing to know that my cutting could not be straight, I may have mis-measured etc. This helps to ensure you don’t end up with it too short. Go ahead and repeat what you did above, iron the hem, pin it, sew it. Take your fabric back to your chair and lay it over the top of the back again. You are almost done!

To see how much you can hem on the sides take one hand and pinch in the sides of both pieces of fabric on one side and using your other hand, do the same to the other side. Try to get it even on the sides. Once you are satisfied that it is even, put a pin just on the outside (not towards the chair) of where you were pinching. Do the same to the other side. Again, make your folds for your hem on the sides using the pin as your guideline to know how wide that hem can be and pin it down once you have ironed it. Do the same for the other side. Take it back to the chair, make sure you can still pinch both sides closed before you start to sew.

Flip your fabric inside out. Pinch your two sides together. We are going to make one stitch that will hem both of the sides and close it. Take your time on this part. You want to make sure the sides line up evenly.

Start stitching down the center of the hem not the edge this time. The reason is that your hems may be different widths. You want to make sure you catch them both with the one stitch.

See that this closes the side and stitches down the hems on both sides. Do the same to the other side. Once you are done you should just have the one opening to slip over the back of your chair. Flip your fabric inside out and slip over the back of your chair! Congratulations if you understood my directions and created a slip cover!! 🙂

This is my finished product! A night time view.

A day time view.

Remember the one chair that we ripped the backing off of. We came up with two solutions: staple several layers of screen to create a backing or use a canvas drop cloth and staple that on there. We went with the screen. It was $7. Total cost of this project was about $60. I love the end result! If you decide to recover your chairs, please come back and share with me!!


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